Students belonging to SC and ST communities from kindergarten to post graduation need not pay for bus travel anymore in Karnataka. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah made a slew of schemes doled out to benefit those from Dalit communities. Free bus pass for students right from KG to PG is just one of the special schemes announced by the Congress government in Karnataka.
The Congress, as well as the BJP, seem to be in a race to appease Dalit voters ahead of the assembly elections in 2018. While BJP's state President B S Yeddyurappa is busy visiting Dalit homes and colonies as part of his statewide tour, the Congress is taking the freebie route to gain the community's favour.
The Congress government has announced schemes to the tune of Rs 27,703 crores aimed at benefitting 'marginal communities'. The free bus passes to students from SC and ST communities statewide is expected to cost the exchequer Rs 104 crore on a yearly basis. So far the state has been giving full scholarships to bright students from the communities to encourage them to pursue their studies further. While the government had been giving a 75 percent concession to students for bus passes so far, it will now issue passes free of cost.
The government is also sending about 1,000 agricultural labourers from various villages belonging to SC and ST communities on a foreign junket. "They will be sent to learn advanced techniques of farming," said Social Welfare Minister H Anjaneya. Government subsidy of Rs 2 lakh aimed at helping youngsters from the community to buy taxis has been increased to Rs 3 lakh. Add to that, members of SC and ST communities will get an additional fund of Rs 1.45 lakh along with similar funding by Rajiv Gandhi Housing Corporation.
These welfare schemes announced with elections in mind are an indication that both parties are lobbying hard to woo the Dalit voters in Karnataka. With eyes set on votes from the community, the Congress even decided to retain G Parameshwara as its Karnataka unit chief.